It seemed incredible that, only a few short weeks after the Graduation Day battle, there would be a party for the ex-Sunnydale Students. In light of everything that had happened, the first six or seven weeks after had been a fairly subdued affair, out of respect to those who had died, not to mention the destruction of the school, but the graduation party had been paid for by the time it had happened and they couldn’t deny the students a party to mark the end of their formal education.
Given that she had been monitoring the Hellmouth for any sign of trouble since then, Buffy had almost forgotten that the party was even happening, it had been Willow who had dragged her out to it. “Come on, Buffy, it will be fun.” So Buffy had donned a purple satin dress, packed a couple of stakes in her handbag, just in case, and the Scooby Gang had set out to the party.
The thing Buffy had not anticipated, when she and the others stepped through the door, was to see Giles there. Buffy had hoped he would be there, had even looked forward to seeing him, but, now that he was there, she could do little more than watch him. He looked up from his talk with Wesley Wyndham-Price and met her eyes, smiling softly at her, before looking back to Wesley. Buffy missed the knowing look that passed between Willow and Xander as they collected their drinks and milled around by the snacks.
“We picked the best place to stand,” Oz observed, “next to the food.”
“Great selection they’ve got here, chips, chips and chips.” Cordelia drifted closer to the drinks table.
Xander helped himself to a handful of crisps, testing each plate.
“Only got the salty ones,” he said “and they taste like they were pulled out of the rubble.”
“I wondered what that strange aftertaste was.” Willow replied.
“Mmm… Plaster dust and asbestos.” Xander helped himself to another handful.
“I love how they’ve rationed it out to exactly one drink per person.” Cordelia noticed.
Buffy was only half listening, her eyes kept drifting over to where Giles stood, politely listening as Wesley droned on. If only he would come over to them. Maybe, if she stood next to the crisps, he might appear next to her.
“Buffy?” Willow’s voice cut across Buffy’s thoughts. She turned to see Willow’s expectant face.
“We were going to go to The Bronze afterwards, if you want to come?”
“Yeah, sure, that’d be…”
Buffy turned around to see Giles stood next to her. His smile made her beat faster, like hailstones hitting the inside of her chest.
“Giles!” She smiled brightly.
“Hello, Giles.” Willow replied, Oz waved from next to her, Cordelia raised her glass.
“I was just speaking to Wesley, my apologies for not coming over sooner.” He glanced at Buffy.
“What did you talk about?”
“Well, Wesley wanted to talk about Vampire activity in Romania, so I was rather tied up for a while.” Giles smiled again, Buffy grinned.
“That sounds like a lot of ground to cover.” Buffy replied, smiling.
“One could be on the subject for a very long time.” Giles’ eyes glinted with amusement.
“We’re going to The Bronze, if you want to come, Giles.” Willow asked him. Giles tore his eyes away from Buffy and she immediately felt a sense of loss.
“I… I’m sure that would be…” He looked at Buffy. “Most enchanting.”
It was difficult to look away.
“So, how was the Watcher’s Council?” Willow asked.
“I bet they weren’t happy about the school.” Xander noted.
“As a matter of fact, they weren’t.” Giles replied wryly, his eyebrows raising. “Although they accepted that some collateral damage was unavoidable. He took a sip of his drink.
“So… Where will you go now?” Buffy asked, suddenly worried. If the school was gone and she was graduating, then Giles would have to relocate to somewhere else, maybe England, maybe he would leave her altogether. Buffy didn’t think she could stand to lose him.
Giles’ gaze rested on Buffy’s face. His own expression unreadable.
“I don’t know. I’m sure I’ll stick around for a while longer, but, longterm, I don’t know what I’ll do. It’s not like I have a job anymore.” Giles huffed a humourless laugh into his drink.
“You’re still my Watcher.” Buffy prompted softly. “I still need you.” More than you’ll ever know.
Giles’ eyes lingered on Buffy’s.
“I mean, we’ve been through so much together… and… there’s still so much I don’t know about Vampires… and… stuff…” Buffy faltered, her eyes falling.
“You’ve learned so much already, I mustn’t take the credit for all of your hard work.” Giles smiled softly. “You have faced immensely powerful foes and vanquished them all, you’ve looked death in the face and returned twice as determined. Besides, you did most of it, I took something of a backseat in proceedings.”
“That’s not true, I couldn’t have done what I did without you.”
“You’re most kind to say so, but, I’m afraid you would have done just as well without an old duffer like me. I do tend to ramble a bit, I never seem to be capable of using one word when I can use ten and…” Giles looked down. “I never seem to find the right words when there’s something I really need to say.”
Buffy felt herself warming, despite the fact that she knew that Giles couldn’t have meant what she hoped he did.
“I get that, sometimes you start talking and you don’t know where you’re going with it, and you want to say something, but you just keep talking and you end up making an idiot of yourself and then you wish the ground would swallow you.” Buffy waffled, starting to feel embarrassed. To her great relief, Giles laughed.
“Yes, I’m glad it’s not just me.”
Buffy found herself smiling, despite her lingering blush. Giles’ voice brought her back to the present.
“Where are the others?”
Buffy looked around. They had been so involved in their conversation that they hadn’t even noticed that the room had steadily emptied of other people and that she and Giles were among the last people in the ballroom. Even the other Scoobies had left. The only people left in the room were herself, Giles, several students, Ms Murray and Mr Miller, who was looking at the assembled group as if he couldn’t wait for the last of them to leave so that he could have a drink.
“They said they were going to The Bronze, so we’ll probably meet them in there.” Buffy suggested, not wanting to rejoin the others just yet. Giles didn’t move.
“Thank you for coming, Giles. It was wonderful to see you again.”
“And the same for your good self.” Giles smiled at her.
“When will you be back?”
“Well with you off to university, I’m rather at a loose end, but I should no doubt find some jobs that will bring me back.” He touched his neck absently.
“Yeah, well, don’t be a stranger.” Buffy smiled, looking down, unsure what to say next. She looked up again as she felt Giles’ hand on har arm. He was looking at her with an intensity of fondness that she’d not seen before. She brought her hand up to touch his arm and they stood in a loose embrace. Giles leaned in and Buffy felt herself drawn irresistibly towards him. As Buffy and Giles tenderly kissed each other on the cheek, the moment seemed to go on in a beautiful golden haze. They parted and Giles opened his eyes. Buffy was transfixed by him.
“We…” Buffy cleared her throat. “We should join the others.”
“Yes.” Giles replied absently. “I suppose we should.”
They let their hands fall and left the nearly empty dance floor together.
Buffy felt as if she were floating as they made their way to The Bronze. Her heart was light and she kept looking over at Giles, wondering if it would be alright to take his hand, or to loop her arm through his and hold on tightly. It felt right to do it and yet she held back. What if it crossed a line? What if Giles didn’t want that kind of contact? What if he didn’t feel the same way?
“Buffy? Is everything alright?” Giles’ concerned voice spoke from next to her. Buffy smiled.
“Yeah, I’m great.”
They got to The Bronze and Giles held the door open for her. The rest of the Scoobies cheered and raised their glasses, Buffy waived at them, suddenly self-conscious of how much time had passed and how she had arrived with Giles so much later than everyone else. She blushed, wondering what they must be thinking. Giles touched the back of his neck awkwardly, clearly thinking along the same lines and he took a seat between Cordelia and Oz, leaving Buffy to sit between Willow and Xander.
“So, you finally made it.” Cordelia said, her eyes darting between Buffy and Giles as she smiled knowingly.
“Yes, we got talking and time seems to have slipped away from us.” Giles took a sip of the drink that Xander offered him, keeping his gaze low. Buffy hid her face behind her drink.
“So, when are you leaving for Los Angeles?” Willow asked and Buffy was thankful that she was distracting Cordelia from interrogating Buffy further.
As the conversation moved on, she chanced a look at Giles, his eyes met hers and her lips quirked in a half-smile, before she looked away. She felt like she was doing something illicit and she was ever conscious of the presence of their friends. She looked back, but Giles had already looked away. Buffy sighed sadly. She missed his eyes on hers. Giles looked at her again and Buffy immediately averted her eyes. She was kicking herself. The stolen glances made her heart flutter, but the risk of her friends finding out was so great that she didn’t dare look at him too obviously. They kept almost missing each other, but always locking eyes and smiling nervously, before they looked away. She chanced another look up at him and found him watching her. This time she held his gaze and drained the last of her drink.
“Well, it’s getting late, I’d better go.”
She looked away to put her glass down, then glanced back to Giles, who appeared conflicted.
“But, Buffy, it’s only 9 o’clock.” Willow tried to persuade her to stay, but if all Buffy could do was make eyes at someone she’d never have, then she didn’t see much point in staying.
“That’s alright, I’m kind of tired anyway. I’ll see you all soon. Good luck with the move, Cordelia.”
“Thanks, Buffy.” Cordelia replied. Buffy reached forwards and hugged her friend goodbye. She then loosely hugged the others and Giles stood up.
“I’ll walk you home.” Giles said and Buffy felt her heart lift. “You never know if there’s been some activity around the Hellmouth, I’d hate for you to be alone if something were to happen.” Giles stood up and helped her put her jacket on. The other Scoobies looked at each other, trying not to look too amused.
“Thanks, Giles.” Buffy answered, hardly daring to believe her luck.
They bade goodbye to their friends and they left The Bronze together.
Buffy and Giles walked in companionable silence for a short while. Buffy drifted closer to him, wondering how close she could get away with being. If their shoulders bumped a few times, would that be ok? The chill of the evening had picked up, so she pulled her jacket tighter around her.
“Are you alright, Buffy?”
“Hmm? Oh, yeah, just a bit cold.”
Giles moved in closer. He stopped short of putting his arm around her, but they leaned into each other as they walked. Buffy felt more at ease with him than she had with anyone else. It was just a shame that Giles didn’t feel the same way. Or did he? Buffy couldn’t help but wonder. They had shared so many moments together, when they had kissed, there was a spark and when they held each other, there was longing in their embrace. Buffy couldn’t have imagined the tenderness in his gaze, the warmth that she saw there.
“Well, here we are.” Giles supplied, standing at the path to Buffy’s house, Buffy hadn’t even been aware that they were there.
“Oh, that was quick.” Buffy stopped beside the hedge, but made no move towards her house. She looked at Giles, not wanting to say goodbye. She meet his eyes and saw that he was looking back at her with a strange, soft expression in his eyes and a small smile that Buffy found so utterly endearing.
“Well, goodnight, Giles.” She said finally.
“Goodnight, Buffy.” He replied.
They stood for a moment, before Buffy held her arms out and Giles leaned forwards into them, taking Buffy in his arms and holding onto her as if for dear life. Buffy clung onto him for as long as she dared, aware that she was standing on the pavement of her street, where they might be seen, but she was suddenly finding it hard to remember why she cared about that. All that mattered was that Giles held her and didn’t let go. Giles turned his face towards her and she met his lips in a kiss that chased away the last traces of her thoughts and she floated on a cloud of euphoria, where the only things that existed were her and Giles.
All too soon, she felt Giles’ arms slip from around her and they broke apart. Buffy’s head was spinning. She took half a step back from Giles, but their eyes never left each other’s and his hands came to circle her waist.
“That was nice.” Buffy’s lips curved into a smile. Giles mirrored her.
“It was. Forgive me if I am too bold, but I would like to see you again, that is to say, I would like to spend an evening exclusively in your delightful company, if you’re amenable.”
Buffy laughed, leaning her forehead against Giles’.
“Oh yeah, I’m amenable.”
Giles’ lips pressed against hers again and Buffy leaned into him for another lingering kiss. They broke apart reluctantly and Buffy slid from Giles’ warm arms.
“I’ll see you around.”
“I look forward to it.”
Buffy kissed Giles one last time, before she withdrew to her front door. As she got to the doorstep, she turned to see Giles still there, wanting to make sure she got in safely. Buffy smiled. She blew one last kiss to Giles, before she opened the door and went inside, thinking that the next few months might not be as daunting as she’d thought.